bookmark_borderPost-340: Against the “Sleeping National Assembly” [Korea Election 2016]

“Political commentators have called the current 19th National Assembly [of the Republic of Korea] the worst parliament ever, extremely unproductive and dysfunctional. I will bet my bottom dollar that the 20th Assembly is likely to be even worse.”
Choi Sung-jin, Korea Times editorial, March 30, 2016


Political banner of the right-wing Saenuri Party [새누리당] at Yeongdeungpo Station [영등포역], Seoul, late March 2016
The governing Saenuri party [새누리당] banner I wrote about in post-338 (“The Liars are at it Again”) was replaced, at some point, by the above.

This is the Korean original on the new banner and my translation:

뛰어라 국회야!

잠자는 국회에서 일하는 국회로

[Saenuri Party]
Get Moving, National Assembly!
Turn our Sleeping National Assembly into a Working One!

This new banner from Saenuri, which I have seen in many other places, seems to be mocking the National Assembly itself, which may seem odd given that Saenuri is the governing party and  controls a majority of the seats (but not a supermajority). This seems to me to be a case, then, of dogwhistling to Saenuri supporters, roughly as follows: “Look, guys, we all know WHO is to blame for the ongoing poor performance of the National Assembly: The opposition. The opposition is to blame. They’re causing problems and making it into a do-nothing body. The solution? You and I both know the solution. Run ’em out. Run the opposition out.”
The Korea Times senior editorialist Choi Sung-jin goes on to say:

“The Saenuri Party is even turning the upcoming election into a ‘judgment of the opposition,’ saying that the MPK [더불어민주당] [the left-wing main opposition party, usually called the Democratic Party] did not cooperate in railroading President Park’s controversial bills into laws. In what sort of democratic country does the chief executive regard the legislative branch as little more than a rubberstamp of the administration, and the governing party calls for voters to punish the political opposition for what it is supposed to do — opposing (a one-sided operation of state affairs by the government and governing party)?”

The Korea Times editorialists are left-leaning, in my experience, and are not likely to ever praise the Saenuri Party. Choi also, though, criticizes the main left-wing party, the Democratic Party (he calls it the MPK [in Korean: 더불어민주당]). This party, in an odd move, has apparently handed over leadership of the party to a right-wing figure. Choi comments:

“The MPK may think its shift to a middle-of-the-road platform will help gather votes, but they could end up ‘losing rabbits at home while running after hares in the mountains’.”

This is a translation of the following Korean proverb: “산토끼를 잡으려다가 집토끼를 놓친다.” I’d never heard it before but I like it.

Finally, Choi also criticizes the attempt by opposition figure Dr. Ahn Cheol-Soo [안철수] to form a new party called the People’s Party [국민의당] after years of shaky relations with the Democratic Party. As I have looked on over the past few years, it has seemed to me that the Democratic Party tried to do something to Dr. Ahn that in Korean is called 왕따시키다, or a group closing ranks against a person, isolating that person with the goal of ruining him/her in the given social dynamic. I have observed this behavior on the job in Korea before, and have even been on the wrong side of it myself, and often hear tales of such from people working in Korean companies. It’s powerful: It enforces group consensus and suppresses challengers while uniting those on the “group” side (“We are all better than this idiot”).

Editorialist Choi predicts Ahn’s new party will undermine the opposition vote. Ahn himself says his supporters would not support the Democratic Party, anyway, and that he represents a new force in politics.

Choi predicts the Saenuri Party will increase its majority and is troubled by this. He raises the specter of Korea as a defacto one-party state with a Saenuri supermajority of two-thirds of the seats.

Postscript / Yeongdeungpo Political Banner Update
Just like its predecessor banner (“The Liars are At It Again”), the banner translated and discussed in this post (“Get Moving, National Assembly!”), too, has disappeared at the busy intersection in front of Yeongdeungpo Station. A few other of the banners seen in post-338 are also gone — Some replaced, some not.

I can only speculate about whether people are maliciously snatching down their opponents’ banners. If so, it’s not surprising, since some of the banners were politically incendiary, including the “Stop the U.S.-R.O.K. Joint Exercises” one, which made the same demand as the North Korean state media. Here is that banner, as it was, until it was removed:


“No war!”
Political banner calling for the an end to the U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises and a peace treaty with North Korea.

bookmark_borderPost-339: German Insights into Korea. The Story of Renate Hong.

At some point around about late 2012, I found a blog by a German of Croatian birth named Nikola living in Seoul. He was then a Master’s student at Seoul National University and was studying primarily in Korean.. This was really impressive from my perspective, at the time, as I sat in my job at a hagwon in Bucheon. Nikola was also a student of Geography, as I had been. I became a silent reader of his blog in those days, using it as an insight into the life of a student in Korea, something I, at that time, knew nothing about. I also used his blog to practice my German. (I once regarded German as a difficult language but now regard it as any easy language. Korean is a hard language.)

It so happens that on Sunday I met Nikola in person, for the first time, in Seoul, and spent much of the day with him and others at an event. Despite never having seen his picture, I knew it was him from the moment he said his name and his country, recalling the blog (, which is still listed in my browser’s bookmarks, buried somewhere down there. I told him I’d been his reader. He was surprised. He said, “Why didn’t you ever leave a comment?” I replied that German was not my native language, which was pretty inadequate as an answer. He is very close to me in age, perhaps the same age. Nikola is now working at some kind of Green Energy thing. I didn’t get the details on his job. He co-runs another blog called Kojects I’ve also occasionally read, but said his boss is pressuring him to end his Kojects website project. I asked him about TOPIK. He said he’d got Level 6. He said he still feels he is always learning. (I got a Level 4 and have a hard time with the evening news.)

I spoke a minimal amount of German to Nikola, but everyone in the group spoke English to each other and I was happy to do so. In fact, despite his considerable language skills (Croatian, German, Korean all fluent, English is his fourth-best language [I presume]), the language of business at the office, he told me, is….yes, English.

There were several Canadians and a couple of other Germans in the group, one of whom had spent some time in North Korea as a German-Korean translator on official business (I didn’t get the details), which greatly impressed me. I had invited two people, Jared, my longest-running friend in Korea from whom I learned much of what  knew about Korea in the early days; and J.E., an impressive Korean friend with degrees from the California and Cambridge and who has lived abroad a long while. The main figure of the gathering was an editor for the Korea Times, a White Canadian in his late 30s. (He told me there are four foreign native-English-speaker editors who clean up the Korean reporters’ grammar in their original reporting. I think his other general task is to serve as a liaison to the actual living, breathing, English-speaking community in Korea the Korea Times ostensibly serves (though in fact the direct readership is likely to be mainly Koreans).

Towards the end of the day, what was left of the group was: The Canadian Korea Times guy, Nikola, the older German man who’d been north as a translator, my friend J.E. whom I had also invited, and a Polish-Canadian young woman who worked for curriculum development for a hagwon chain — were drinking magkeolli rice wine [막걸리] at some place I’d never seen before in Jongro, the old heart of Seoul. I am not an advocate of alcohol, but I recognize its purpose in alcohol cultures, of which most European cultures definitely are: When the alcohol is out, it is the Germans’ time to shine. That’s the way it is. They told great stories and had fantastic insights on things. The man who had been in North Korea commented something worth putting down here. He said that the differences between North and South have been greatly exaggerated. He had a few examples from his experience.

At another point over the rice wine, the Germans brought up and commented on the story of Renate Hong, an East German woman. I’d never heard the story before. I’ll let Nikola tell the rest of the story, by way of my translation of his post on this subject, from 2013:

The Story of Renate Hong
By Nikola [original German] / January 2nd, 2013
Translated into English by Me / March 2016

Yesterday on Korean television, I saw a rather romantic and tragic story which relates to Germany and North Korea. As a student, Renate fell in love with a North Korean who had been sent to Jena in the German Democratic Republic [East Germany]. They got married and had two sons. The children were even given Korean names in case the family wanted, in the future, to go to North Korea. Then, the husband was ordered back, leaving Renate alone with the children there, without any contact and without the possibility of traveling to North Korea to see her husband. Her story has become known worldwide and there is a documentary in English with the title, “I Hope to See You Again,” which can be seen at Myvideo.

There was also an article in Spiegel from 2007, in FAZ, and in Deutsche Welle. In the last article, the severity of the summons back home and the consequences for Renate’s love are illustrated:

350 students and graduates had to leave overnight. Renate’s love was one of them. He had to leave his five-months-pregnant wife and his small son. Renate Hong and another friend pleaded with the Foreign Office for help — without success. The answer was: “There is nothing we can do. There are diplomatic implications.” Renate Hong found out, eventually, that her husband had been sent to the chemical factory at Hamhung [North Korea]. For three years, Hong Ok Guen sent her letters and tried find a way to be reunited with her and the children. Then, total silence.

After 46 years, in 2007, she received a letter from him, and in 2008 she visited North Korea with her two sons. There, she did, in fact, meet her husband, who had since remarried, and the two sons met their half-sister for the first time. A family photo of the reunited can be seen here [below]. The documentary I saw was very up-to-date; it had scenes from last September: In 2012, the husband wrote that his health was not good and that he would love to see Renate and his sons one more time. Before the preparations could be finalized, another letter arrived from the North. It wasn’t from the husband but from the Red Cross. Unfortunately, he had died. Renate and her sons went on with the trip anyway and she visited the grave of her spouse. By this point, my girlfriend, her mother, and I were all teary-eyed. It was very moving. Her story represents the stories of those many relationships not originating in political systems and ideologies but, rather, destroyed by them.

[Original in German]


Hong Family Reunion, 2008, North Korea. Renate Hong (blonde) with husband Hong Ok Guen (in hat). The two half-Korean sons are beside their full-Korean half-sister (center).

bookmark_borderPost-338: Saenuri Party Banner, “The Liars are at it Again” [Korean Election 2016]

South Korea’s National Assembly (국회) elections are coming up in April 2016. The last time, in April 2012, the “right-wing” Saenuri (New Frontier) Party won a majority of seats, foreshadowing the narrow victory by the same party in the presidential race in December 2012.

My impression is that the Saenuri Party (formerly called the Grand National Party, 한나라당) is differentiated from the main opposition Democratic Party (now called 더불어민주당) by being more strongly anti-North-Korea (i.e. more confrontationalist), more pro-U.S., and more in favor of a closed society at home. The Saenuri Party is mainly descended from General Park Chung-Hee’s Republican Party (공화당), and his daughter is now president.

Official campaigning is not allowed till March 31, which, in practice, means no teams of campaigners in matching uniforms chanting via louspeaker systems in public places, and no “noise trucks” blaring “Vote For So-and-So! Vote for So-and-So!” etc. Yes, campaigning in Korea is not much like campaigning in the USA. I find it all fascinating but most foreigners (and I presume Koreans) seem to resent the disruption of daily life and the added noise. The restriction on campaigning does not include political banners, which are everywhere.

Below is one banner I found from the right-wing Saenuri Party which I can translate and upon which I can comment.

First, it should be said that the opposition parties are making South Korea’s new Anti-Terror Law (테러방지법) a main issue of political attack. The Anti-Terror Law was passed in early March 2016, unilaterally by the ruling party, with no votes from the opposition. In fact, it was reported that no opposition National Assembly members were even present at the vote — All had boycotted the session in protest over the proposed law and over the government’s refusal to negotiate). Some question how different things really are from the 1970s in Korea (except for the society being much wealthier). Events like this….


Across from Yeongdeungppo Rail and Subway Station (영등포역), southwestern Seoul and next to “Times Square” shopping center, mid-March 2016

Original Text of the Banner and My Translation

광우병 천안함 이젠 테러방지법도 왜곡
‘그들이 또’ 국민을 속이고 있습니다

They lied about Mad Cow Disease,
They lied about the Sinking of the Cheonan,
And now they’re lying about the Anti-Terror Law.
They’re at it again. They’re up to their old tricks.
[New Frontier (Saenuri) Party]

South Korean politics is characterized by occasional political-frenzies during which it is difficult to figure out what’s truly going on. I remember, in 2011-2012, the political frenzy over the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Act (한미자유무역협정, usually called “한미FTA”). I remember the angry diatribes in public places, via megaphone, denouncing the Free Trade Act. The MERS Crisis of last year was another such incident, in a way,  but is now long forgotten. The Sewol Disaster was another, the year before that. There are many others. (None of these had much or anything to do with North Korea, fearmongering about which is so prominent in the U.S. media.)

The Anti-Terror Law seems, from what I understand of it, to be a kind of Internet-Age (and “Terror Age”) update to the notorious National Security Act (국가보안법). The National Security Act allows for the imprisonment of those the government alleges they are “anti-state” without having committed any specific offense, a troubling concept to the democratic mind. Something around a hundred South Koreans a year continue to be charged and convicted under this law, even in the 2010s. This is soft political suppression in action. The high-profile banning of a small far-left political party in late 2014 and the jailing of some of its leadership may have used this law to justify the banning, I’m not sure.

Anyway, the red-and-white political banner above refers to two more such “frenzies” and the banner implies that “they” (the Left generally, presumably) “lied” about each.

(“Lie 1”). Mad Cow Disease (광우병). U.S. beef was banned for five years in South Korea during the left-wing government of Roh Moo-Hyun, 2003-2008. I interpret the U.S. beef ban to have been a proxy for the political impossibility of removing U.S. troops. It was claimed that U.S. beef was infected with Mad Cow disease, and quite a lot of people seemed to believe it, despite no Americans having died of Mad Cow disease. Even today, it is uncommon to see U.S. beef served in restaurants. For years, into the mid-2010s, the Lotteria fast food chain had a slogan on its burger wrappers in Korea, “Clean and Safe Australian Beef” (Americans, if they knew about the insinuation being made, would be hurt, like a friend insulting you behind your back). In response to this frenzy, all restaurants had to publicly notify customers on the origin of their meat products. I’ve only seen U.S. beef served in a restaurant once. It became common in grocery stores, though, after the lifting of the ban when a right-wing president came to power in 2008.

(“Lie 2”). The Cheonan (천안함 침몰 사건) was a South Korean Navy vessel sunk with 46 lives lost in March 2010, two years into the administration of “confrontationalist” South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak (Saenuri Party). The international consensus seems to be that North Korea sunk the ship deliberately for its own reasons that aren’t worth going into here. Conspiracy theories were around at the time purporting that North Korea did not attack and sink the vessel as alleged, alleging a coverup. These insinuations had some success in the popular mind. Only “68 percent of South Koreans trusted the government’s report that Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean submersible” in a 2011 poll (Wiki)..

(“Lie 3”). The Anti-Terror Law (테러방지법). Discussed above. Critics seem to be saying that the Anti-Terror Law is going to be used to “scale up” the state apparatus for suppressing political activity and speech. The Anti-Terror Law specifically allows, its critics say, for the government to actively monitor all online communications, comprehensively, without a warrant, including the enormous database of KakaoTalk, the national chat app, which almost all Koreans use. A Korean-American acquaintance of mine, resident of Seoul for almost twenty years, recommended me to use a certain Russian chat app instead, “Because the government can’t access the database; it’s in Russia.”

Some more shots of the area around the Saenuri banner (“The Liars are at it Again”) . Across the street is Yeongdeungpo Station (영등포역) in Seoul. The exact same banner is visible lower right below:
Below is the same scene from the other side of the street. Note the red banner in the lower-right:
Several other political banners are to be seen here. One from a left-wing party saying, “Stop the Anti-Terror Law = Surveillance of the Citizenry Law!” (테러방지법 = 국민감시법 반대!)

Maybe even more interesting is the banner proclaiming “No War! Stop the US-ROK joint military exercises; Sign a peace treaty (formally ending the Korean War)!” (전쟁은 안된다! 한미합동군사훈련 중단하고 평화협정 체결하라!). The level of speech used here is the low form (반말 banmal), as you speak to someone whom you do not need to show respect towards. The red-and-white Saenuri Party banner (“Liars at it Again”) above is in a much more formal form (존댓말). This is because it is not addressing the “liars” but authoritatively asserting that they are liars. Saenuri, in its banner, is addressing its own support base and so uses a formal form to project an air of dignity.

Here is one more shot of the Saenuri banner, with a feel for how dense Yeongdeungpo is directly behind it. I failed to capture the magnitude of the Times Square Shopping Center, off to the left in the below and the size of a large stadium.

One more banner from Saenuri is across the street, sort of directly under the LOTTE sign in one of the above photos.

Yeongdeungpo, Seoul, March 4th, 2016 (sign still up as of March 28th)

새해에는 경제먼저 민생먼저

In the New Year: Economy First, Livelihoods First
[New Frontier (Saenuri) Party]

As the main parties have the same rhetoric on economics, this particular banner is boring.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, I was living in Bucheon. Near my building were two banners next to each other, one from the Saenuri Party and one from the Democratic Party. I was amused greatly that the two banners had the exact same slogan on them, down to the exact same words. It was something about building a society based on 복지(welfare payments). The U.S. Republican Party, in many ways comparable to the Saenuri Party, would never use such slogans promising “more welfare.”

Another thing I remember about the 2012 race was the Democratic candidate Moon Jae-In (문재인), whose name I had great fun with, in middle school classes at the hagwon, because it sounds like “Problem Man” (문제인)… The problem for him was that he lost.

bookmark_borderPost-337: Dreams, Roots, Stars. (Three ‘Walking Poetry’ Translated)

Three short poems by Roh-Hae Park (박노해) translated here by me for the first time ever (as far as I know). All are taken from here.

꿈을 혼자 꾸면 꿈에 지나지 않지만
꿈을 함께 꾸면 반드시 현실이 된다

Dreams dreamed alone are nothing but dreaming;
Those dreamed together, though, actually come true.
(Roh-Hae Park)

괜찮다 뿌리만 살아있다면
바람에 흔들려도 괜찮다

It’ll be fine, so long as the roots survive.
The breeze still blows through. It’ll be fine.

(Roh-Hae Park)

지금까지 본 별들은 수억 광년 전에 출발한 빛
가장 빛나는 별은 아직 도달하지 않았다
간절하게 길을 찾는 나에게로 달려오고 있으니

The light of the stars we see today
Began millions of light-years away;
The brightest star has not yet arrived.
As I busy myself seeking my own path, that very starlight is approaching fast, rushing towards me…

(Roh-Hae Park)

See also:
Post-#333: Introducing Roh-Hae Park
Post-#334: The Path to Greatness
Post-#335: Spring in Kashmir
Post-#336: Encountering a Stone

bookmark_borderPost-336: Encounter with a Stone (Poem)

 A poem and my translation.

길을 가다가 돌을 만나면
걸림돌이라 말하지 말고
디딤돌이라 부르며 나아가기를

If, in the course of your travels,
You should encounter a stone,
“An obstacle!” Do not say.
Call it, rather, a stepping stone,
And proceed on your way…
(Roh-Hae Park)

This one is from an Internet collection we might translate as “Roh-Hae Park’s Reading Material for Those on the Move” (박노해의걷는독서). I am not sure if this is something official or put together by his fans. It is clearly designed to be “Internet meme” material (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook…) as this website makes clear. There are many more such poems there. These poems are meant to be consumed by native Korean speakers in the (literal) blink of an eye.

See Also:
Post-#333: Introducing Roh-Hae Park
Post-#334: The Path to Greatness…
Post-#335: Spring in Kashmir

bookmark_borderPost-335:  Spring in Kashmir

See also: Post-#333 (“Introducing Roh-Hae Park”) and
Post-#334 (“The Path to Greatness”)

Below is a third poem by Roh-Hae Park (박노해) I have translated into English from his Korean original.

This one is paired with a photograph the poet took. Both are displayed at his current exhibition in Seoul.

다정한 눈길로
Wagnat village, Jammu Kashmir, India, 2013

카슈미르의 봄은 아이들의 미소에서 피어난다.
보고 또 봐도 무슨 얘기가 그리 많은지
생글생글 환한 웃음소리가 끊이지 않는다.
그래 아이야, 세계는 위험에 가득 차 있지만
너에겐 맑은 눈과 다정한 마음이 있단다.
지켜내라, 견뎌내라, 여기 살아있어라.
너를 둘러싼 어둠을 살라 먹고
다정한 친구들과 함께 너의 길을 가라.

With a Warmhearted Glance

Wagnat village, Jammu Kashmir, India, 2013

It is spring in Kashmir. Smiles of children burst forth.
I look on; they have rather much to say.
There is no holding it back, the clear sounds of laughter.
Well now, child, the world really is full of dangers,
But your eyes are bright and your heart, warm.
Stay as you are. Hold out. Stay alive.
Destroy the darkness that surrounds you;
Continue on your way with warmhearted friends.

The optimistic imagery of the first lines here are a surprise because Kashmir is known as a place of acrimony and war.

There is nothing in the poem directly about the Kashmir conflict or the political situation as such. The closest is the second-to-last line. The poem takes no side between India and Pakistan, of course. The second-to-last and last lines might be read as a call for Kashmiri independence as a solution to the problem, but that is just one possible reading.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir, each controls a separate part, and there is occasional fighting, often stoked by foreign Jihadis. Up to 70,000 have been killed in the past twenty-five years there. I see several parallels in recent Europe. Northern Ireland and the various civil wars of ex-Yugoslavia. Perhaps eastern Ukraine today.

There are some historical parallels between Kashmir and Korea, too, though Kashmir is much more a plaything of foreign powers than even Korea ever was. Another main difference is that there is no parallel in Korea to the flow of foreign Jihadis into Kashmir.

Speaking of this, I remember seeing an interview with John Walker Lindh, White convert to Islam, Taliban Army veteran, and the most well-known “all-American case of treason” of this era (called “the American Taliban”). Lindh said that he had had occasion to once meet Osama bin Laden personally, in Afghanistan, in early 2001. He said that the latter had advised him to choose one of three places to pursue Jihad. These were: Chechnya, northern Afghanistan, and Kashmir. Lindh ended up with the Taliban Regular Army in Afghanistan, which, after Sept. 11, 2001, was suddenly at war with the United States. Rounded up by U.S. forces, he was put in a temporary prison at a place called Masar-i-Sharif, a place from which he jumped to worldwide fame/infamy after speaking to guards in a flawless American accent, claiming to be an American, asking for repatriation. He is currently a federal prison inmate. If he had chosen Kashmir and was captured, I wonder what would’ve become of him…

bookmark_borderPost-334: The Path to Greatness…

I have decided to translate a second short poem by Korean Roh-Hae Park (박노해) (See Post-#333.)

우리는 위대한 일을 하는 것이 아니라
위대한 사랑으로 작은 일을 하는 것
작지만 끝까지 꾸준히 밀어가는 것
그것이야말로 가장 위대한 삶의 길이다.


Not through great deeds,
Rather through small deeds of great love
Loyally performed till the last.
Thus is the path to true greatness in life.

(Roh-Hae Park)

Google says it appears several hundred times in (the original) Korean online, but as best as I can tell it is the first time that a translation appears in English.

Park became a professional photographer following his release from prison. Another of his photos at the current exhibition in Seoul:

bookmark_borderPost-333: Introducing Roh-Hae Park (박노해), Poet. (Or a Poet’s Life Arc. The Nation in One Man)

A friend visited an exhibition now in Seoul of work by somebody called Roh-Hae Park (b.1957). I don’t know the English transliteration of his name; Roh-Hae Park is a likely possibility. The name written in Hangeul is 박노해. There is a Korean Wiki entry on him but no English entry.

His Wiki describes him as a “poet, photographer, labor-, environmental-, and peace-activist.” His story is more interesting than it may seem (see below). It’s the first time I’d heard of him.

Here is my translation of one of his short poems. I have failed to find any previous English translation. Presenting this for the first time in the English language….

나는 이 지상에 잠시 천막을 친 자
초원의 꽃처럼 남김없이 피고 지고
자신을 다 사르며 온전히 살아가기를

One who pitched his tent upon this Earth for but a moment am I.
Like a flower in a meadow, earnestly blooming,
utterly destroyed that others might make their way in life.
(Roh-Hae Park)

Here is some of what I’ve learned about Park’s personal history.

He is a native of Jeolla Province, not far from the birthplace of “Sunshine” President Kim Dae Jung (whose political biography by American journalist Donald Kirk I have just finished; see also post-#321). Roh-Hae Park was imprisoned in 1991, at the age of 33, for his capacity, in the judgement of the court, as “ringleader of an anti-state subversive organization” (반국가단체수괴), one of the many who have been jailed under South Korea’s draconian security laws. He was able to publish a book of poetry from prison in 1993. Without any further knowledge of the unnamed poem I translate above, I presume it to be from that collection.

His prison sentence was handed down in the era of President (formerly General) Roh Tae Woo, the final South Korean president associated with the military. Our poet was released from prison in an amnesty of political prisoners by President Kim Dae Jung in 1998 on August 15th, Korean Independence Day, the first time this holiday came around under the new administration. (Kim Dae Jung, elected in December 1997, is known as Korea’s first ever “liberal” president and was beloved in the United States, where he spent some years in political exile, including much time in Northern Virginia. His legacy is mixed in Korea itself.)

The activist and poet Ro-Hae Park’s life arc represents, or so we might be very tempted to think, a kind of political-cultural arc of the Republic of Korea itself over the past sixty years. Born in poor circumstances in the 1950s in a rural and neglected corner of Korea (then a depressingly poor country), growing up under the military government, becoming a radical opposed to ongoing military rule in the 1980s, sentenced to prison for his political activities, released from prison with the dawn of the Sunshine Policy in the late 1990s, and finally, attainment (in his middle age) of prestige in the arts, as a cultural figure, the latter reflecting Korea’s soft power across the world through its cultural exports (TV, music…) . It’s almost as if Ro-Hae Park were not a real man, but a fictional creation of a screenwriter to personify Korea itself during the decades in question.

I have included three pictures of Roh-Hae Park I find on the Korean Internet, one from 1991 when he was 33, the second in 1998 at age 40 and released from prison, the third in 2007, the year he turned fifty. This year he turns 59.


Photograph of Roh-Hae Park (imprisoned 1991-1998), at his sentencing.


Roh-Hae Park, at his release from prison by executive order, 1998.


Roh-Hae Park in Lebanon, 2007, in the capacity of photojournalist.

I did not see the exhibition. A friend did. Here is one of Mr. Park’s photographs:

bookmark_borderPost-332: In My Absence…

Since last updating these pages, I returned to Korea (early March 2016), by way of Canada. I’m here again as part of a bigger plan that will begin in fall 2016. More on this another time.

In February 2016, I began an ambitious translation project from German to English that I hope to finish someday. Around the same time, I moved this site to, the third name change since the site began about three years ago ( should still work but redirect to the new URL). (The top banner still says Yuletyde but that should change, sooner or later, if I can remember how I made it…)

In other news, I discovered that someone has translated* my post-#263, “Korea’s English Language Newspapers Contrasted” from my original English into Korean, with thousands of views. I have some familiarity with these two “native” English newspapers; both have nearly-all-Korean staffs but original content in English so have better reporting on Korean affairs in English, in certain ways, than any foreign media generally can. A lot of foreign media base stories on Korea Times and Korea Herald originals, I’ve noticed. I had never seen a comprehensive comparison of the two before my post written over a year ago. The two newspapers continue to be sold and read.

* — The Korean who translated my comparison was writing on the Korean discussion board He says he “roughly” translated it. In fact, there is no way to translate natural English written at a high level to natural Korean, except roughly. Even members of the same language family cannot smoothly fit one onto the other without some roughness in translation. That’s just the way it is. I have read his translation and found it faithful.

Here is his translation with his own introductory and concluding remarks. He says that he found almost no comparison of the two Korean English-language newspapers except my post. (I might translate this back into English in full at a future date):

[자기계발] 국내 영자신문(코리아 타임즈, 해럴드) 둘다 보는 냔들 있니? (feat. 비교글 변역)

IP :  .172 l Date : 15-04-14 10:22 l Hit : 1893
글주소 :
난 영국영어가 익숙하고 경제전공이기도 해서
BBC 랑 The Economist 가 주로 보는 언론인데
한국뉴스는 접하기 힘들어서 (네이버로만 핫이슈만 접하는 거 같음)
국내 영자신문을 보려고 해
비교된 자료가 웹에 거의 없고
딱 하나 작년말에 개인 블로거에 의해 쓰인 걸 찾았는데
이 냔은 국적은 모르겠지만 국내거주 외국인인 거 같고
2000년대 말부터 지금까지 자기가 읽고 느낀 걸 정리했네


내가 대충 번역하면

1. 코리아 타임즈는 살짝 왼쪽 논조, 해럴드는 그보단 오른쪽 논조
2. 타임즈는 반미적인 편이고 특히 주한미군에 있어서 그럼. 해럴드는 그에 비해 친미적
3. 타임즈는 대놓고 반일. 애초에 독도문제를 다루는 단체로부터 스폰받음. 어떤 일본 문제에 있어서도 적대적임. 해럴드는 덜 반일적임.
4. 타임즈는 전반적으로 인종차별적임. 서양외국인들 사이에서 악명높은 강신후라는 기자가 있다고 함. 해럴드는 다문화 문제 등에 있어 중도적임
5. 타임즈는 한국일보가 모회사. 해럴드는 조선일보
6. 타임즈는 직접적인 파트너는 없으나 뉴욕타임즈 사설 가져올 때 많음. 해럴드는 워싱턴 포스트랑 LA타임즈랑 파트너쉽맺음
7. 타임즈는 (위 내용들과 모순되지만) 보다 미국적임. 예를 들어 조현아 사건에서 “헤더 조”라고 표현. 해럴드는 보다 아시아/한국적임. 한국인 이름은 그냥 성 앞에 쓰고 한국이름 그대로. 조현아도 조 현아로.
8. 타임즈는 문체가 간결함. 해럴드는 좀더 고상하게 쓰려고 함
9. 타임즈는 점점 황색언론화되는 추세. 해럴드는 이걸 지양하려고 함.
10. 해럴드가 문화면이 더 풍부함. 금요일에 “themed”라는 특별판을 만듦.
11. 타임즈는 4.와 9.의 이유로 국내거주 서양인들 사이에서 평판이 해럴드보다 낮음.
12. 타임즈는 외국인 스탭 적음. 해럴드는 외국인 기자들이 많아서 국내 외국인 커뮤니티 이슈들을 다루는 편임.
13. 타임즈는 11.에도 불구하고 일반인들의 의견을 다루는 코너가 많음. 해럴드는 영어가 유창한 한국 지식인들의 외부칼럼만 거의 받음.
14. 가격은 둘다 같음
15. 서울에서는 둘다 구하기 어렵지 않으나, 편의점 가판대 같은 곳에 영어신문을 하나만 들인다면 어떤 이유에서인지 거의 코리아타임즈임.

라고 하네.

블로거 개인의 성향이 무지 반영된 평가같긴 한데
난 둘다 읽어본 적이 없어서 (근데 이 블로거냔 말로는 외국 언론의 한국뉴스는 대부분 이 두 신문 거 갖다 쓰기 때문에 간접적으로 니들은 이 두 신문 기사들 많이 읽었을 거다라고 함)

둘다 읽어본 냔들 어떻게 생각해?